Spod, thanks for the informative reply -- especially referring me back to the Testbed 4 setup. I had read it but the information didn't stick. I guess after looking at tens of graphs of useless information on other sites, you tend to develop a glassy eyed approach to looking at them.
I had understood what the Office and High-End Desktop tests did, but not exactly what they measured. Office is for everyday type use while High-End is geared towards large file/long sequential reads. Correct? As I use none of the software in the High-End test, it seemed irrelevant to me when I read it. Once I saw that it deals with large files, it made much more sense and is obviously relevant to my 1+gig file needs.
Now that I think I understand the tests, a fairly obvious observation comes out of the Performance Database that I had not read anywhere. Load the Performance Database and compare the 150 and 74gig Raptors, the 250 gig drives (sans the Seagate as it clearly is outperformed), the Samsung P80 160 gig drive and any of your favorite big drives like the Hitachi 7K500. If you look at only the High-End DriveMark you can see that performance improves as drive size increases. The Raptors need different treatment but as the real difference between them is just the size of the drive it just confirms the point -- don't let her kid you, size matters. Larger capacity disks handle larger files faster.
This brings me to another observation of the tests. Looking at the Testbed 4 basic statistics for the Office DriveMark, it appears there is a significant amount of large file handling (over 20 percent) in that test. That seems very high to me. I plead ignorance here but is this close to the average for a normal user's activity of booting, opening and reading email, opening a browser and hitting your favorite sites, maybe a spreadsheet and a Word document and IMing your friends and relatives? (I'm sure this is answered in another thread but it is easier to ask someone that knows than wading through the myriad of posts to find the answer, thanks.) The reason I ask is that if bigger drives have better performance on larger files and the Office DriveMark has too many big file handles in it relative to actual use, the Office test is biased to favor the larger drives. I make this point because I think it could significantly impact what you want to put in your box. Look at the Office DriveMark scores between the 250 gig Hitachi and the 160 gig P80. Is the Hitachi really a faster drive when compared to the P80 or is the big file issue clouding the answer to that question? If the improved performance of the newer drives are only being driven by the larger capacity, there is obviously no reason to upgrade other than to get more space or if you happen to deal with large files (which I have said I do.)
So where am I going with this. As Spod said, you might be better off with a fast drive for system and programs and another drive or RAID for large files. This is exactly where I ended up with in current configuration. These 250 giggers seem to only be faster for large files (from my interpretation, I can be wrong).
With that said, now my complete naivete with RAID will shine through. If size is driving the large drive performance and there are lots of small, fast, Office-friendly drives out there for cheap, couldn't I improve my office performance with 2, 3, or 4, 80 gig drives in a RAID 0 for my system and programs and then maybe two of these 250 gig drives in another RAID 0 for my large files and or, as someone else was asking, in a big media file server? That these 250's are so cheap per gig, they make perfect sense in the latter. That I can buy three 80 gig drives for the price of a 74 gig Raptor suggests that those in a RAID 0 configuration may be the better alternative, if they are faster in RAID 0 than the single Raptor (don't know again, am asking). I have several nice little 80 gigs laying around so cost there is zero for me.
As for the issue of sound, thanks for the info on the other website. I had seen it referenced but had never visited. Will check it out. This is just a suggestion to Eugene. As he obviously has the equipment in place for testing already, it seems a simple matter to go ahead and measure the sound while the drive is active. A more complete review can only endear us more to a good site for valuable info.